Unstable Bodies: Victorian Representations of Sexuality and Maternity
Jill Matus uses bio-medical, social scientific and literary texts to interrogate Victorian concepts of sexual difference. Departing from the usual critical focus on Victorian conceptions of the sexes as incommensurably different, she emphasises the powerful effects in Victorian culture of notions of sexual instability and approximation. While ideas about mutable or ambiguous sexuality provoked fear and fascination, they also served Victorian middle-class ideology by offering 'scientific' ways of constructing racial, class and national identity in terms of the body. Throughout this period fierce public debates raged around prostitution, infanticide, working-class sexuality, female reproduction and domesticity. Drawing on works by Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and the Brontes, Matus explores the dialogue between literary and other discourses of sexuality. Unstable bodies will be an essential reference work for students and scholars working in Victorian literary and cultural studies, feminist studies, and the history of sexuality.
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Acton Adam Bede Agnes Grey animal Anne Bronte argued associated attention Audley baby baby-farming beauty behaviour biological body Braddon Casaubon Charlotte Bronte child Cleopatra closet constructions cultural debates discussion Diseases of Women domestic Dorothea Elizabeth Gaskell emotional emphasises Esther explores factory feelings female desire female sexuality feminine feminist fiction flowers Functions and Disorders Gaskell Gaskell's gender George Eliot girls governess Greg Hetty Hetty's human human sexuality hysteria hysterical ideological infant infanticide insanity instability Jemima labour Lady Audley's Secret Laycock London Lucy madness Madonna male Manchester marriage Mary Barton maternal instinct Maudsley menstruation middle-class Middlemarch moral mother motherhood narrative narrator nature nineteenth-century notion nursing painting passion passionlessness political prostitution question reader representation represented reproductive response Review Rosalie Routledge Ruth Ruth's Saint Teresa Science sensation novel sexual difference social suggests texts University Press Victorian Villette W. R. Greg Weston wet-nurse woman working-class young